Further to my letter to Cllr Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, in May of this year (to which I have not received a direct response) I have now sent a follow up letter setting out the duties of the Council under the Equality Act 2010 and how this applies to council members who are pregnant or who have had a baby. I hope he will support me in the development of a relevant policy. I will share a response as and when I receive one.
15 October 2015
Dear Cllr Govindia,
I refer to my letter to you dated 6 May 2015, concerning the treatment of women in public office, specifically mothers and pregnant women, and my proposal that Wandsworth Council adopt a policy on these issues. I have not received a direct response to my letter. A copy is included below for reference.
Previously, when requesting a copy of the Council’s maternity policy for Members in April 2015, I received a helpful email response from Head of Executive and Committee Services Frankie Belloli in which I was informed that there was no such policy. Belloli informed me that during my time with my new baby I would receive my allowance as usual, plus the potential for a separate childcare allowance, and that I was under a statutory duty to attend at least one Council meeting every six months.
I have copied Frankie Belloli to this letter, as the issues I raise below are also for his consideration, and I feel it would help to keep him involved in our discussions. I have also copied Paul Martin as Director of Administration.
Public sector equality duty
At section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”), as I am sure you are aware, there is a strict duty upon public authorities (in respect of which definition London Borough Councils are included) to have due regard during the exercise of their functions to the need to:-
(Underlined sections are my emphasis). “Protected characteristics” include being pregnant, and planning to take/taking maternity leave.
In addition to this duty, Wandsworth Council must (under s149(3)):-
Having due regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it involves having due regard, in particular, to the need to—
The Act explicitly applies to Council Members, (see section 58):-
In order for Wandsworth Council to observe its duties under the Equality Act 2010, and in the interests of an inclusive, effective and harmonious chamber, a Parental Rights Policy for Members would be very helpful. Given our different status to employees of the Council, this should be a separate document to those prepared for employees, to avoid confusion. I would ask you to also consider the following points:-
If you would like, I am willing to take the lead in drafting a policy for your and Frankie’s review, so we can discuss implementation in due course, ideally dovetailing the policy with the existing equal opportunities publications issued by the Council.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Cllr Earlsfield Ward
cc: Frankie Belloli, Paul Martin